Communication as a redeemer and a unifier : By Bipin Sharma

Whether it was the Doordarshan, and the radio, or the 21st century boom of internet and the digital media coupled coupled with the power of the fourth estate, ‘communication’ per say has since time immemorial been playing a pivotal role in aiding citizens effectively and efficiently convey their grievances, thoughts, ideas on a larger scale.

The information or the expression communicated by a citizen through any platform be it the social media, TV, radio, newspaper, or a book has all the potential of stirring the emotions of a nation, and thus paving the way for some sort of a ‘revolution’, or a ‘renaissance’. The intensity of the revolution is to a greater extent, influenced by the sensitivity of the information communicated by citizens.

In the last decade or so, we have observed how some extraordinary media reporting has been instrumental in triggering the emotions of the masses for the positive.

More than the role of the media which reported the horrific incident of the Delhi Traffic Police Head Constable throwing brick at a lady commuter in the capital’s plush Golf Links area, it was the ‘alacrity’ with which a man clicked the video of the macabre incident that helped in highlighting the shocking incident, thereby nailing the culprit.

Imagine if the video of the assault on the lady had not been clicked, this barbaric incident would have died its death before creating any ripples that it actually did.

Despite the victim and her daughter testifying before the competent authority, the accused in all probability would have attempted to give the entire matter a spin in order to exonerate him from the crime had his reprehensible act not been captured in the video.

The moral of the story being that it has been the ‘communication media’, which has not just played a crucial role for all these years post independence, but has been more significantly responsible for bringing to fore countless of sensitive issues in the larger interests of the masses.

While some incidents get reported due to the various communication platforms, there is a great probability that countless of sensitive matters and incidents have simply not been reported as a result of which the truth has remained buried. Consequently, it is the common man who is made to suffer as he is left to bear the brunt. While some experts term it as the ‘suppression’ of the Democratic freedom, I for one, term it as a severe blow to democracy.

Democracy and Communication go hand in hand, just like “Fundamental Rights and Fundamental Duties” go synonymous.

Implying that if citizens only talk about their Fundamental Rights, the discussion would be ‘lacking’, as they need to simultaneously not only talk about their Fundamental Duties towards their country and the society, but also bear in mind, a sense of responsibility towards the same.

Besides the brick throwing man in uniform, a good number of civilians too deserve a special mention (read ‘condemnation’) for having shamed and humiliated humanity at some point or the other, as a result of their brazen monstrous behavior.

Just a couple of days ago prior to the incident of the brick throwing traffic cop, there was the horrendous incident in the capital city when a biker fatally assaulted a DTC Bus Driver following a minor collision. Thus triggering a bus strike by the DTC union as a consequence of which countless of daily commuters were left stranded. One reckless incident, in the process becoming the source of agony for countless of commuters.

If one were to compute the fallout of the fatal assault on the DTC bus driver by the biker, it is imperative to not just take into account the inconvenience caused to countless bus commuters for some 36 hours, but also the overall loss of revenue when the buses were not plying for a considerable period of time.

Besides the revenue loss, the commuters too were at a loss due to one man’s reckless act in a fit of rage. The strike led people to resort to all sorts of ‘quick fix solutions’. While some boarded the metro rail, some shelled more than the normal fare for an auto ride to their office, or place of work. There were some who gave their office a ‘skip’, not out of choice, but because of ‘sheer compulsion’. It was a real ordeal for all the daily commuters, especially the students and the senior citizens.

In the aftermath of all the inconvenience caused to the masses, it is natural for citizens to expect legal minds to take into account all the above mentioned factors while filing a PIL in this matter, if at all they decide to do so.

The powerful and ever pervasive communication tools keep every segment of the society on their toes. While the communication tools like CCTVs in public places such as markets, metro, malls, multiplexes, banks etc have provided a great ‘sense of security’ to the citizens, it also makes them ‘accountable’ for their actions and behaviours. Aware that every step of theirs is being monitored under a scanner, they feel an extra sense of ‘responsibility’ owing to which they maintain decorum during their stint in the public domain.

The recent SC judgment putting an embargo on the pictures of anyone except President, Prime Minister and the CJI on the government advertisements is a ‘landmark’ one, and quite aptly a ‘watershed moment’ for the nation. It’s a ‘victory of democracy, citizens and the communication’.  It is not difficult to conclude that the SC judgment basically wants to do away with the ageless custom of promoting ‘cult status’.

The noteworthy judgments and rulings of the higher courts such as the embargo on politician’s photos on advertisements should be hailed as it the ‘hard earned money’ of the common man that netas have been using all these years for their self promotion on advertisements.

Albeit some regional satraps were disenchanted with the remarkable SC judgment saying it meant a setback for the ‘federal structure’, the order of the apex court needs to be viewed in its larger context. The long term ramification of the ruling would ensure the saving of colossal precious funds that have for years being splurged on promoting political stalwarts.

The common man has not only been baffled all these years, but felt helpless seeing the photographs of netas on advertisements on a regular basis in different media platforms such as TV ads, print media ads, or the outdoor advertising.

With the SC order in place, it would come as a big relief for people like my father (an octogenarian) and countless of common men and women who would be empowered by getting duly informed about the initiatives of the government sans the superfluous exercise of flaunting the photographs of politicians and leaders alongside. The overall emphasis would thus be more ‘qualitative’, and this is what will help strike a better chord with the masses. The pertinent messages will eventually get dispensed to the masses-the citizens in the most desired and effective manner. Experts feel that the ‘naysayers’ must realize and accept that the order of the apex court does not put an embargo on the process of communication and information. Instead, it has just come to the ‘aid’ of the citizens and democracy by giving an order for banning the promotion of cult personalities, or individuals on platforms meant solely for ‘citizen’s welfare’.

Close on the heels of this development, the apex court took a critical view of Delhi CM Arvind Keriwal’s controversial circular wherein he had sought filing of defamation cases against media organizations tarnishing the image of his party and council of ministers.

Paradoxical that the media which catapulted him to glorious heights is now being subjected to such a treatment simply for calling a spade a spade.

In that sense, the earlier Sheila Dikshit government in Delhi and the present Modi government at the centre need to be commended for being comparatively more tolerant with all types of media projections and assessments barring ‘exceptions’ of course.

The message must have been communicated loud and clear to CM Kejriwal that any attempt to gag or muzzle the media will only find more opposition than any approval. Difficult to digest that a fierce crusader of free speech, expression, and someone who has been inspiring people to become ‘citizens journalists’ by audio or video recording the lacunas and the systemic wrongs in the society, is having a different set of rules when it comes to the reputation and political sustenance of his party and council of ministers.

Just like it is hazardous and imprudent to sail on two boats simultaneously, it is ludicrous to have two different set of rules for the same game.

The true believers in democracy would never pose any ‘encumbrances’ in the process of ‘communication’, and in fact, would tread that extra mile to ensure the smooth flow of communication.

On a personal note, I have been a big admirer of Kejriwal’s dynamism and his fearless attitude when he took on the political and corporate world heavyweight’s one after the other in his quest for clean, transparent and accountable governance. He struck an instant chord with the masses when he said during his oath taking ceremony, that victory is one thing, but winning with a landslide margin of 67 seats in the Delhi elections means that it is God’s wish to give them a chance to serve the people of Delhi. Frankly speaking, as far as the integrity and commitment of Kejriwal goes, it is indubitably impeccable. And this really happens to be the reason why people of Delhi reposed all the faith, and voted for him in large numbers.

However after assuming office of Delhi CM for the second time, he found it tough to cope with the constant media pressure, forgetting that it is the core duty of the media to hold everyone accountable for their actions be it the Modi government at the Centre, or the Mamta government in West Bengal.

By striving to put the media in the dock, Kejriwal seems to have lost the plot somewhere. Experts reckon that he should introspect lest it might impact his popularity.

The Delhi CM should draw solace and strength from the thumping mandate with which he created history in the assembly elections. Having a ‘confrontationist’ approach would only complicate matters, and make the challenge to usher in drastic reforms for making Delhi world class, all the more daunting.

Needlessly getting bogged down by few negative media reports should not rattle Kejriwal. Why does he forget that PM Modi and his party too won an absolute majority, but even the massive numbers were inadequate to prevent him from being subjected to constant media, public, and opposition scrutiny. Week after week, PM and his team were questioned about the promise of ‘Achche Din’, but the ruling party ensured that it didn’t hinder in their quest of ushering new reforms in the country.

While Kejriwal, or for that matter, any ruling party has the right to turn the tables on the political adversaries, it would seem unfair to do the same with media (the fourth estate) and the public. The media being the ‘communication tool’ is well within its right to question the government of the day, and same holds true for the ‘common man’ whose power and mandate determines which political aspirant and candidate gets elected or rejected.

The ‘sustenance of democracy’ alongside a ‘smooth communication channel’ has to be ensured failing which it could lead to a ‘systematic collapse’.

Democracy depends a great deal on the various communication mediums and platforms, and vice versa communication assumes relevance because of ‘citizens’ in a democracy.

The 2014 Lok Sabha general elections in India were closely followed by different nations of the world primarily because it was about the world’s largest democracy going to polls.

After the results to the historic 2014 Indian general elections were declared, a big world leader hailing the victory margin of Modi described him as a man who had successfully led his party to victory in the world’s largest democracy. Indeed, this description from the famous world leader was enough to gauge the colossal relevance of democracy in the 21st century.

While practically everything has revolved around the word ‘democracy’ all these years, ‘democracy’ per say has assumed humungous significance with advancements and innovations in the field of communication. Citizens in a democratic set up are aware of all their duties and rights as a result of the modern day communication media’s.

Though crime against women in India has been going unabated, technocrats have innovated myriads of new apps to ensure the well being of women in distress. Similarly there are whole range of security gadgets and communication tools for senior citizens staying alone and all by themselves. However the million dollar question is how well and timely are citizens able to make use of the communication tools?

On the professional front, people with good and efficient communication skills enjoy a distinctive edge over others in various spheres. Leaders too who are effective communicators, enjoy a marked edge over others and are able to make a better impact on others.

In democracy, communication has a very critical role for not just the democratically elected people representatives, but also for the citizens as they are able to express their grievances and grudges before their chosen MLA’s, MPs and councilors through the various media and communication platforms. If the citizens were devoid of the various privileges and options of communication platforms, they would not have been able to hold the government and the civic authorities responsible for their lackadaisical approach. The government too would have taken it casually had it not been the fear of being caught on tape through various communication tools.

Albeit there have been information savvy leaders in the country, Arvind Kejriwal has cemented his place for being a one off politico who has incessantly been beseeching the Delhi citizens to secretly conduct sting operations of government officials found demanding bribes or other favours. While the CM has unquestionably initiated a unique measure to curb rampant corruption in the system, he needs to also ensure that the wide ranging merits of communication tools are not misused by those with nefarious designs. The probability of the Delhi CM’s ambitious plan being misused by those already engrossed in intricate matters cannot be overlooked and ignored.

The larger point being that communication tools in democracy are not just endowed with advantages, but come with their own set of disadvantages too, when they are misused for self vested interests. Thus extra caution has to be exercised by those advising such ‘out of the box’, yet seemingly effective ideas.

With the dynamism that Kejriwal possesses, I for one strongly believe that he can accomplish many unique milestones in his tenure as Delhi CM provided there is ‘synergy’ of his innovative and ambitious ideas and the modern day communication tools including the media.

Communication besides being a great ‘redeeming’ factor is also a great ‘unifying’ factor for people in today’s fast paced and hectic life.

Thanks to the different communication channels that we remain continually linked and networked to our friends and relations even being physically miles away. No exaggeration to say that communication is like “A Knight in shining armour.”

The world has compressed, and the life’s become so interesting.. Plaudits all the way to the ‘Communication’ wonders and innovations!!

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